This is a very fine pair of lidded potpourri vases made by Royal Worcester in 1909. The potpourris are in the "blush ivory" style with beautiful overlaid enamel flowers signed by the famous painter William Hale. The style of decoration very unusual on large items like these, which makes them extremely rare.


Potpourri vases were used to fill with scented dried flowers and seeds to freshen the air in the often stuffy Victorian and Edwardian homes. You can see the grills in the necks of the pots, which were to let the scent out.


Worcester was one of the first potteries in Britain to create items in porcelain. Alongside other great potteries such as Derby, Chelsea and Bow, they pioneered a new industry that would grow out to be huge in the following century. In later years Worcester went through many different ownerships and styles, and ultimately it became the Royal Worcester factory, continuing operations into the early 21st Century.


These pots are in the "blush ivory" style, which became popular in the late 19th Century and ceased around 1914. The blush ivory style was based on the Art Nouveau movement in Europe and Aesthetic Movement in Britain, creating designs based on natural shapes rather than the familiar ornamental shapes from the Victorian times. The production process was complex; items received a glossy glaze on the inside, and a matt glaze on the outside. Colours were achieved by spraying an apricot-coloured glaze near the rims with the newly invented "aerograph machine" - this was one of the first examples of air brushing! Decorations were designed by master artists and then printed in outline, the colours to be applied by hand, often in raised enamels like you can see on this item. There was heavy gilding involved - all of this took 5 firings, a lot of time, materials and 22Kt gold, so you can imagine that these items were expensive. 

These pots have beautiful bouquets of roses adorned with garlands of daisies and forget-me-nots, painted by the famous painter William Hale. Hale was one of the famous fruit and flower painters at Royal Worcester in the very early 20th Century. He was one of the painters allowed to sign his name to his works - you can see the signatures to the side of the flower bouquets in the pictures.


Hale was well-known for this style of flower painting: bold, lush primary flowers are surrounded by delicate flower garlands. He often applied his flowers in overlaid enamels, picked off in white and a bit of gilt to give them an extra bright "lift" against the blush ivory background. These vases are a sublime example of Hale's skill.


The vases and covers have intricate surface moulding in lavish gilt, which took exceptional skill from the porcelain modellers . The vases are large; it was difficult to fire such large porcelain objects without any sagging or bursting, so these would have been very expensive items just because a significant number of the total vases fired would have failed in the kiln and never made it to the decoration stage.


The vases have the Royal Worcester mark on the bottom with the year cipher for 1909, and the shape number 1428.


CONDITION REPORT Both vases and covers are in perfect antique condition without any damage, repairs or crazing. There is a tiny bit of wear on the rims where the lids sit, otherwise the vases are absolutely perfect. One vase and cover is a little more orange than the other; a testament to the fact that this is all handwork.


Antique British porcelain is never perfect. Kilns were fired on coal in the 1800s, and this meant that china from that period can have some firing specks from flying particles. British makers were also known for their experimentation, and sometimes this resulted in technically imperfect results. Due to the shrinkage in the kiln, items can have small firing lines or develop crazing over time, which should not be seen as damage but as an imperfection of the maker's recipes, probably unknown at the time of making. Items have often been used for many years and can have normal signs of wear, and gilt can have signs of slight disintegration even if never handled. I will reflect any damage, repairs, obvious stress marks, crazing or heavy wear in the item description but some minor scratches, nicks, stains and gilt disintegration can be normal for vintage items and need to be taken into account.


There is widespread confusion on the internet about the difference between chips and nicks, or hairlines and cracks. I will reflect any damage as truthfully as I can, i.e. a nick is a tiny bit of damage smaller than 1mm and a chip is something you can easily see with the eye; a glazing line is a break in the glazing only; hairline is extremely tight and/or superficial and not picked up by the finger; and a crack is obvious both to the eye and the finger. Etcetera - I try to be as accurate as I can and please feel free to ask questions or request more detailed pictures!


DIMENSIONS 31cm (12.25") high incl. cover, 23.5cm (9.5") wide incl. handles and 20cm (8") deep.


SHIPPING I ship worldwide from the UK. I am happy to combine shipping charges on multiple items - please contact me to discuss. In principle I do not make a profit on shipping although for simplicity's sake I charge flat shipping fees. If the fee charged greatly exceeds the actual cost I will gladly refund you the difference - at the same time if it is slightly lower I will gladly make up the difference. Please note that due to the pandemic shipping costs have generally gone up steeply, and although I use only the most reliable couriers, there can sometimes be some delays.

Royal Worcester pair of potpourris, blush ivory signed by W Hale, 1909

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